Coming into the 2018 Pulaski Yankees season, 19-year-old Ezequiel Duran had much fanfare. The young infielder out of the Dominican Republic made a lasting impression on scouts and coaches during minor league spring training.
After signing last year he made his professional debut, playing for the Dominican Summer League Yankees. Even though the second basemen played only 15 games on the season, he was tied for fourth on the team in home runs (3). In 61 at-bats, he registered 24 hits.
“Hitting is my biggest strength on the field,” said Duran. “Even though I’ve been struggling recently, it’s something I’ve always been good at.”
Manager Nick Ortiz believes Duran is improving his batting as the season has gone on:
“I’ve seen a lot of progress, he’s been hitting the ball hard, and we just need a little bit of luck for him,” said Ortiz. “He’s hit a couple of balls right at the shortstop, right at third basemen, you saw today he was able to hit a ball hard at the shortstop that handcuffed him, and the shortstop couldn’t make the play.”
Coming to Pulaski, Duran didn’t know what to expect, having never heard of the city. However, he knows it was vital to have the same mentality as he’s always had.
“Pulaski is a very quiet place, but because it’s so quiet, I get to keep my focus on baseball more,” Duran replied.
Born in San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic, he was signed by the New York Yankees in 2017. He joined the Pulaski roster once the Appalachian League season began on June 18.
So far in 17 games, Duran has a batting average of .169 with 12 hits, nine RBIs, and three home runs, tying his number last year in the DSL. He is tied for third on the team in strikeouts with 17, which showcases Duran’s hitting struggles as of recently. Right now, according to Ortiz, the swing is improving, which should get his batting average up
“The impact is there, he’s swinging the bat much better, he’s taking a lot of pitches that he used to swing at out of the zone, so that’s an improvement there itself,” said Ortiz. “I think moving forward we’ll continue to see his average rise up and hard contacts be more consistent.”
Duran has progressed gradually through the season climbing to second on the team in home runs and third in RBIs. His batting average, which was last on the team at .112 after eight games, has risen to .169. Over the past few games, he’s been getting on base by being walked often and he capitalized in the first game of their series against the Bristol Pirates series as he scored two runs.
Growing up, there was one player in particular that Duran idolized.
“Robinson Cano,” said Duran. “Not only does he play my position, but I like his toughness and his will never to quit. It’s a mentality I try to have when I go out on the field too.
Cano is from the Dominican Republic as well. He’s an eight-time All-Star, a World Series winner (2009), and has participated in multiple Home Run Derby competitions (winner in 2011). Duran hopes to put up Cano-like numbers for the rest of the season for Pulaski.